Tokyo court throws out weapon case

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-19 06:51

The Tokyo High Court yesterday rejected a compensation plea by a group of Chinese victims of chemical weapons abandoned in China by the invading Japanese army at the end of World War II.

The judgment overturned a ruling by a Tokyo district court in 2003, which said the Japanese government should pay 190 million yen ($1.56 million) to 10 Chinese victims.

Yesterday, the higher court confirmed that Japanese troops abandoned chemical weapons in China. However, it said there was no proof that the damage could probably have been avoided if the Japanese government had offered relevant information to China and helped retrieve the weapons.

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"They admitted the fact, but refused to shoulder the responsibility It is the logic of pirates," Zhong Jiang, a victim of a 1982 leak of a mustard gas shell which injured four construction workers in Mudanjiang of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, told a press conference in Beijing.

Zhong, who was disabled and left in poverty as a result of the accident, suffers great pain and mental torment.

"I cannot understand it as a lawyer," said Osamu Saikawa, a Japanese lawyer representing the Chinese. "This is an illegitimate ruling, due to their lack of courage.

Kang Jian, deputy chief of the All China Lawyers Association's (ACLA) working group on the abandoned chemical weapon lawsuits, said: "Everybody recognizes the fact, including the Japanese government. But the high court did not want to be the first one to judge its government guilty, so it chose to break the basic principle."

Yu Ning, head of ACLA, said they would go on appealing.

"Forgiveness will bring adverse results. The significance of appealing goes beyond the matter of compensation. It helps reshape the attitude of the Japanese government on issues of history."

There is a rare two-page postscript attached to the ruling, calling for political settlement of the chemical weapon issue.

The lawsuit, started in 1996, involved leakage of toxic chemicals and shell explosions from 1974 to 1995. After the Tokyo district court's landmark ruling in 2003, the Japanese government took the case to the higher court.

Of the three suits filed in Japan by Chinese victims, this is the only one which won the first trial.

At least 2 million chemical weapon shells were left over by the Japanese troops and over 2,000 Chinese citizens have been injured or killed, according to China's Foreign Ministry.

China and Japan joined the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997. Two years later, they signed a memorandum obliging Japan to remove all weapons by 2007 and provide all necessary funds, equipment and personnel for their retrieval and destruction.

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